If you’re applying to college, there’s now a good chance your Facebook page could be a factor in admission decisions.
A record high of 40 percent of college admissions officers in the nation acknowledged their admissions staff visit applicants’ social media pages to learn more about them in a 2015 Kaplan survey — a 300 percent increase from 2008.
University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said it is the policy of the University’s office of admissions to not look at the social media posts of applicants.
The 2015 survey that interviewed nearly 400 college admissions officers, however, found that overall colleges are looking at applicants’ social media more than ever.
Despite the increase of attention admissions officers pay to prospective students’ online profiles, the report found 89 percent of officers only “rarely” look, and usually do so after being “triggered” by something in their application.
Triggers can be both positive and negative: Positive triggers that prompted an admissions officer to probe an applicant’s social media included interesting talents or special awards, as well as for scholarship considerations, while negative triggers included disclosure of a criminal record or disciplinary action, as well as an anonymous tip about inappropriate behavior.
LSA freshman Susie Meaney said she did not feel as though her social media would have affected her college prospects last year.
“I’m also very conscious of what I post regardless, so I didn’t really feel like I had a lot to worry about,” Meaney said.
Engineering sophomore Matt Schafer, on the other hand, expressed his discomfort with the practice. Schafer said posts on social media profiles are not necessarily representative of the candidate.
“It’s a little unfair because someone might have just like, said something stupid, being silly on Twitter, on Facebook, and that would end up possibly not letting them into the college they really wanted to get into, when everything else, they had qualified for, or not getting a scholarship that they really needed,” Schafer said.
Meaney also said she feels this practice is unfair, as it disproportionately benefits high schoolers who were aware of an admissions officer’s likelihood of checking social media.
“Basically, if someone had maybe an older sibling or a cousin that had gone through something like that, then they were more conscious, but I think some people hadn’t heard from other people that, ‘Oh, colleges actually do look at your social media,’ and those people didn’t really care (what they posted),” Meaney said.
The survey also found that social media could both positively and negatively affect a prospective student’s application. Thirty-seven percent of admissions officers said an applicant’s social media had positively affected their view of the candidate, but an equal 37 percent said it had negatively affected their decision.
Positive findings included previously undisclosed community involvement or leadership roles, while negative findings included evidence of drug or alcohol use, criminal activity or otherwise inappropriate behavior.
The University admissions website states it values traits outside of an applicant’s test scores, such as “evidence of leadership, awards and service,” but does not refer to social media posts.
“We look at each student as a whole package, a combination of talents, interests, passions, and skills,” the website states. “In this way, we can look beyond grades and test scores to recruit the most dynamic group of students possible.”
Engineering freshman Niko Sawan said using social media as a measure of judgment for admissions is justified since a serious candidate would already be wary of posting inappropriate content on social media.
“I don’t see a problem with them checking social media,” Sawan said. “If you’re really worried about your stuff on (social media), there’s so many ways to make yourself private, change your name, do all this stuff. So if you’re really serious about applying to college, I don’t think there’s any reason for you to have something that would make the difference between you getting into college or not.”
Despite the fact that some may be unaware that college admissions can look at applicants’ social media, Meaney said overall she feels it’s justified in verifying jobs and awards as well as allocating scholarships.
“I think that your social media pages are kind of like an extension of yourself and can kind of reveal more than you would put in an application,” Meaney said.
Schafer echoed Meaney’s sentiments, and said reviewing an applicant’s social media allows a college admissions officer to get a more holistic view of that applicant.
“I think it’s okay to a certain extent. It definitely does give admissions officers a different side to the person, so it’s not just what I’m trying to show you. When you’re doing an (application), you kind of put all the good qualities about you, not necessarily the bad ones, so social media might show some of the bad qualities,” Schafer said.
Update: This article has been updated to include comment from University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald.